Everyday Grooming Techniques

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    Grooming Tools


    While horse owners take pride in a shiny, well-groomed
    mount, regular grooming also benefits your horse’s health and well-being by
    promoting circulation, stimulating the skin and massaging the muscles. The
    routine interaction of grooming helps build a relationship with your horse and
    can strengthen your bond. From a practical perspective, grooming before riding
    is a must because the heat and friction of tack on a dirty horse can cause
    sores and skin irritation.

    Grooming Essentials

    A well stocked grooming kit starts with the basics: hoof
    pick, curry comb, and brushes for the body, usually one soft and one with
    stiffer bristles. Add a brush or comb for mane and tail and a sponge or two,
    and you’ll be equipped for daily care.

    Old towels and rags are also useful to have on hand for many
    grooming tasks, such as cleaning the face and head, spot cleaning, rubbing out
    sweat marks and more.

    Each horse should have his own grooming tools to prevent the
    spread of fungus through shared brushes and grooming equipment.

    Customize your grooming tool selection and techniques for
    your horse. Stiff brushes and vigorous grooming may irritate a sensitive,
    thin-skinned horse, while an itchy individual or one with a thicker coat may
    enjoy a more heavy-duty grooming. There are numerous variations on the basic
    curry combs and brushes. Experiment with different brushes and amounts of
    grooming pressure to find out what works best.

    As you groom, be attentive to your horse’s reactions, note
    any unusual sensitivity that could indicate a developing physical issue, such
    as back soreness. Regular grooming is also a great way to monitor your horse’s
    weight and general health. The hands-on inspection allows you to become
    familiar with what’s normal for your horse and notice any changes. You can
    detect and treat cuts, skin irritations, swelling and other minor health
    problems before they turn into major ones.

    The Routine

    Horses are creatures of habit that take comfort in a
    routine. It also makes sense to clean in a systematic manner so that you aren’t
    dirtying what you’ve just brushed. As a general rule, work from the top down,
    front to back, and then switch sides. You’ll eventually develop your own
    grooming routine for optimal efficiency, but here are the basic steps.

    Face

    Some horses enjoy having their faces groomed, while others
    merely tolerate it. Be gentle. A soft, flexible curry can help remove loose
    hair and dirt, followed by a soft brush. Use a damp rag or sponge to clean
    around the eyes and nostrils.

    Body

    With fingers or body brush, gently remove shavings, hay or
    other large debris from the mane. Any dirt that falls on the coat will then be
    swept away during your grooming session. If you aren’t cultivating a long
    flowing mane, it’s OK to give the mane a quick brush.

    Use the curry comb in circular motions to lift up dirt and
    dander from the coat and remove loose hair. Start at the neck and work from
    front to back on the large muscled areas of the body.

    Follow the curry with a medium or stiff brush. Use short,
    brisk strokes in the direction of the hair, with an upward flick at the end to
    help remove dirt. As a finishing touch, use a soft brush to polish the coat to
    a shine and remove any fine dust and dander remaining.

    Legs & Feet

    The soft brush can also be used to clean the legs on a daily
    basis. A soft, flexible rubber curry or mitt is gentle enough to use on the
    bony structure of the legs as it conforms to the shape of the leg and
    effectively loosens dried mud. It’s especially important to make sure legs are
    clean if you will be putting on wraps or boots.

    If you see small yellow bot eggs on your horse’s legs, you
    can use a grooming block to scrape off these little parasites.

    Picking out the feet is one of the most essential grooming
    tasks and should be done before and after every ride. Ideally, you should clean
    out your horse’s hooves on a daily basis, even when you don’t ride. It’s
    important to remove stones or foreign objects that can cause bruising and
    discomfort. Packed dirt, mud and manure can create an ideal environment for a
    hoof infection such as thrush to develop.

    As you run your hand down the horse’s leg to ask him to lift
    his foot, take a minute to pay attention to the leg itself. This is a good
    opportunity to feel for heat or swelling, and look for small cuts. Also check
    the overall condition of your horse’s shoes and feet.

    A gentle squeeze above the fetlock joint cues most horses to
    lift a hoof. Support the hoof in one hand and with the other hand, use your
    hoof pick to remove dirt, stones and any other matter. Work from heel to toe in
    a downward direction, picking out the v-shaped grooves around the frog. Brush
    off any remaining dirt, and gently set the hoof down.

    Tail

    Many people believe less is more when it comes to preserving
    a pretty tail. The less you fuss with the tail, the less risk of hair breakage
    and loss. However, some minimal maintenance is required to keep it tidy. As
    part of your everyday routine, pick out any large debris in the tail, such as
    shavings or hay. Burrs can be removed with the help of coat polish spray or
    detangler.

    For a thorough detangling, start with a clean, conditioned
    tail. An application of detangling serum or spray will make the job easier. The
    basic technique to tame a tangled tail is to start at the bottom of the tail
    and work upward in small sections. When you hit a knot, work through it gently
    to separate the hairs. Traditionalists favor detangling by hand, followed by a
    wide tooth comb or pin bristle brush.

    Mane Maintenance

    A long mane can be detangled just as you did the tail. If
    you keep your horse’s mane thinned and pulled short, plan on regular pulling
    sessions to keep it at an appropriate length. Some people prefer to do a little
    bit every day. For daily care, short manes can be brushed out with a pin
    bristle mane and tail brush.

    Post Ride Grooming

    Grooming after a ride is also important. Dried sweat left in
    the coat is itchy and may also cause your horse to develop skin problems.

    Rinse off sweat and mud if the weather permits, or let it
    dry so that you can brush it out. Pay special attention to the sweaty areas
    under the saddle, bridle and girth. Also check between hindquarters for any
    sweat or lather.

    In the winter, it’s especially important to make sure your
    horse’s coat is completely dry before blanketing him or putting him away. Use a
    towel to rub down the sweaty areas, working in a circular motion to lift the
    hair and encourage the drying process. A moisture-wicking cooler can help pull
    the dampness from your horse’s coat while keeping him from becoming chilled.

    Liked this article? Here’s more info on grooming your horse:
    Primp My Ride
    Chart: Essential Grooming Tools

    3 COMMENTS

    1. This article and specially the video were very superficial and at time I felt inaccurate. What was shown did not seem to enrich the communication between horse and rider (just watch the horse). I would hope that a publication like Horse Illustrated could do a more thorough job of reviewing these type of articles before posting or publishing them.

    2. Thank you for posting these types of stories HorsChannel.com! It can be pretty daunting for a new rider and hearing these basic concepts from a reputable source is really helpful.

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